Indie 404 Ink has landed The Arena of the Unwell, the fiction debut of music writer Liam Konemann, due to publish next April.
The acquisition follows publication of Konemann's pocketbook, The Appendix: Transmasculine Joy in a Transphobic Culture, out this month as part of the press' new Inklings non-fiction series.
The Arena of the Unwell follows 22-year-old Noah as he is drawn into the co-dependent relationship of two older men in the indie music scene. In the absence of any real purpose, Noah spends his nights drifting between North London pubs and music venues, and his days sleeping off hangovers in the stock room of the floundering record shop where he works. When his favourite band, Smiling Politely, announce a last-minute set in a small venue, the crowd turns violent and Noah runs into the street, meeting Dylan, the charming local barman he’s never quite had the courage to approach.
As Smiling Politely prepares to release its first album in five years, Noah finds himself pulled deeper into the toxic relationship between Dylan and his brooding, enigmatic friend Fraser.
The debut will be 404 Ink's second 2022 title, following poet Andrés N’ Ordorica’s first collection At Least This I Know (scheduled for January), and will explore ancestry, racism, nationhood, activism and queerness.
The two titles were submitted via 404 Ink’s 2020 open submissions call, and will be the publisher's lead titles for the first half of 2022, with more to be announced. The publisher acquired world rights directly from the author.
Commenting on the acquisition, publisher Laura Jones said: “We feel like we've struck the jackpot acquiring both Liam's Inkling and now his debut novel. Liam writes ill mental health and modern gig culture unlike we've ever seen, with a natural ease and dark humour that might be unmatched. To say we're excited to bring him to the reading masses is an understatement.”
Konemann added: “Having worked with 404 Ink on The Appendix, I’m very happy that my debut novel is in their capable hands. I felt that they understood the book and its themes from the beginning, and I’m so excited to be a part of their list. The Arena of the Unwell is about music fandom, queerness, mental illness and rubbish boyfriends, and was written while I was on the Spread the Word’s London Writers Awards scheme. I can’t wait to see it in the world."